Conversations with Leaders: David Rhea
Although he wrangles numbers like a statistician, Dr. David Rhea is a communication expert.
“One of the enigmas of the communication discipline is that we have social science scholars, we have critical analysis scholars, and then there are also the media production people. So we're a field where really every kind of research methodology you could think of ends up being in play. I am a communication scholar, but the bulk of the research I do is statistical analysis-based,” he said.
Director of the Honors Program at Governors State University (GSU) and soon-to-be director of the Center for the Junior Year, Rhea prides himself on his work with fellow GSU colleagues in rewriting the formula for identifying students who will succeed in an honors program.
Rather than looking exclusively at test scores, Rhea has a whole-student approach that considers multiple factors in predicting student success. Under his leadership, GSU has started seeing test scores and grades within the context of where the student was coming from as well, and Rhea says—so far—the method is working.
“To see students who might not have been accepted [into an honors program] in other places succeeding is exciting,” Rhea said. “These students tell us with their words and show us with their actions what they want, and we are responsive to that. The vision we have in the Honors Program is that college is more than the degree you earn—it’s an experience that allows you to engage in the classroom, out of the classroom, on campus, and off campus with high impact educational practices and experiences that supplement and work with the knowledge that you're gaining, so that when you graduate you are the right person for the thing that's next in your career.”
Rhea wants to bring that Honors Program success to the Center for the Junior Year.
“I want to take that same vision,” Rhea said, “and transfer it to the CJY to start getting students thinking about: Why am I here? What do I want to do? And what experiences and classes will supplement my major to help me be the right person for what I'm going to do next?”
Although he is not required to teach—what with heading up two major programs at Governors State—Rhea said he’ll continue teaching at least one course each semester.
“There are courses that I love to teach, because I get to serve students directly and get to know those students in their sophomore year for four months, and that helps us build a lot of relationships and that’s a great tool for those students and helps us promote the CJY.”